The story is all too real: a young Ethiopian girl, having had the fortune of receiving a primary school education, is set to be married at the age of 15. There is little question about her possibilities of further education, of developing skills and a career. Instead an outdated cultural tradition will see her role reduced to being a wife.

That is the reality for many girls in Ethiopia. Despite it being illegal to marry below the age of 18, 16 percent of girls are married before the age of 15, and 41 percent will be married before 18. Ethiopia is a large place, and dominated by rural communities where local tradition often rules over national law.

It’s something we’re working on changing. And today imagine1day announced a new initiative, End Early Marriage and Let Girls Learn, which will help do just that.

Thanks to almost $40,000 in funding from the Embassy of Canada to Ethiopia and Government of Canada, our new project will involve training local leaders, strengthening girls’ clubs and providing adult education for women.

It all fits with our approach that education is the key to empowerment, and that doesn’t just mean educating the young. We’ll be working with religious leaders, influential elders and the wider community to educate them on the value of girls’ education and the consequences of early marriage.

As part of the project over the next five months we will:

  • Train 206 religious leaders and elders on the value of girls’ education, consequences of early marriage and the legal framework;
  • Provide three-day training for 721 parent-teacher association members from 103 schools on gender and girls’ education, and strategies to identify and track the enrollment of out-of-school children;
  • Train 206 Girls’ Club leaders on life skills that can be passed onto school girls
  • Strengthen 103 Girls’ Clubs by providing supplies including stationery and feminine hygiene products;
  • Organize monthly coffee conversations for five months in 103 schools with members of the community to discuss barriers to education, strategies for enrolling out-of-school children, and improving girls retention and participation; and
  • Engage 5150 people in 103 communities in the Functional Adult Literacy program.

We’re looking forward to making a serious impact on the number of early marriages and, in turn, giving more Ethiopians girls the education they need and deserve.